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Everything You Need To Know About The Haas Essays

November 22, 2021
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Part 1. Introduction Part 2. Purpose of the Haas Essays Part 3. What are the Haas Essays? Part 4. Top Tips for Crafting the Haas EssaysPart 5. Two Examples of Haas EssaysPart 6. FAQsPart 7. Conclusion


The Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley is one of the most competitive business schools in the United States. Thousands of candidates apply every year, but less than 400 are chosen to take part in their MBA program. 

While these small classes mean that you have the opportunity to join a close-knit community that values collaboration and forming genuine bonds, it also means that you have to make sure that you stand out from the crowd in your application.

The best way to separate yourself from the competition is through your Haas essay questions. This article will help you understand what to expect from the questions and help you write an amazing MBA essay.

Purpose of the Haas Essays

Essays are an important part of the Haas School of Business admission process. The way you answer the Haas essays helps the admissions committee gauge how compatible you are with the culture and values of the institution. 

The mission at Haas School of Business is to help cultivate leaders who will revolutionize the way the world does business. Therefore, the admissions committee is looking for individuals who show great capability for both academic and non-academic success once admitted into their MBA program. 

Illustrating your embodiment of the four Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles within your Haas essays is a great way to show the admissions committee that you have what it takes to excel in their program. The four leadership principles are as follows:  

Question the Status Quo

Haas School of Business is considered the epicenter of innovation and values progress made by challenging conventions, backing bold ideas, and taking intelligent risks. This also means being open to accepting and learning from your failures; not all innovative and creative ideas will succeed. This principle is all about embracing experimentation and exploration. Candidates who are admitted to the program demonstrate within their essays and throughout their application that they are curious, willing to set their own paths, and are passionate about voicing their opinions. 

Confidence Without Attitude

The confidence to take risks and make decisions is always grounded in thorough evidence and analysis. While confidence is an important quality of a good leader, showing humility, and a willingness to learn and listen are just as important. Trust, collaboration, inclusion, and always being open to learning are key to embodying this defining principle. 

Students Always

The Haas School of Business values and encourages curiosity and lifelong learning, which will help foster personal and intellectual growth long after graduating from their MBA program. Being willing to be a student always means listening and observing, asking questions, and ultimately becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Candidates admitted into Haas can convey that they are not perfect and that there is always more to learn. 

Beyond Yourself

Haas shapes the business world by embodying and encouraging ethical, responsible leadership, which includes putting the collective good above their own interests.

Successful applicants to Haas’ MBA program think beyond their personal goals and achievements; they reflect and discuss instances where their contributions had a ripple effect on the lives of those around them. Students at Haas make a social impact in their communities and the world. 

Above all, your answers to the Haas essays help paint a complete picture of who you are and what you want to accomplish. The admissions committee wants to approve candidates who are well-versed in each aspect of their lives.

What are the Haas Essays?

Though questions are subject to change each year, the Haas essays typically follow a similar format and theme. Applicants are required to submit responses for two required essays, several optional essay questions. 

Two Required Essays

The two Haas essays, both of which have a limit of 300 words, are defined by the four key principles. While the first question will require a more profound level of self-reflection and sincerity, as it is more personal and creative, the second question is more pointed. 

The second question focuses on leadership. Like the first question, the second is also reflective, inviting you to articulate your opinions and values about leadership within the context of who you are and what you hope to accomplish. These two questions will help the admissions committee determine whether or not you would be a good fit in the program.

Optional Essays 

The admissions committee holistically reviews applications and therefore wants to understand all aspects of a candidate’s character, background, and experiences. Haas is particularly interested in uncovering those invisible influences, which have instrumental impacts on candidates’ opportunities and decisions. 

Potential information that you may provide here includes any socioeconomic barriers that you  faced, times in your life where you’ve had to change course because of your circumstances, or situations that have required you to be incredibly resilient to overcome. How have these experiences impacted you and pushed you to succeed? 

Supplementary Information

Lastly, Haas allows candidates to provide any relevant information that could not be addressed anywhere else in their application. Haas provides several topics that you can talk about in this section, including: 

  • An explanation if you have not received a letter of recommendation from your supervisor 
  • Any significant extracurricular activities or community and professional organizations that you have been involved in during or after university
  • Details about any jobs that you have had during your undergraduate or graduate studies
  • An explanation if you have been subject to academic discipline, placed on probation, suspended, or required to withdraw from any college or university,

When writing this section of the Haas essays, don’t feel pressured to give your answers in paragraph form; bullet points are encouraged where appropriate. 

Top Tips for Crafting the Haas Essays

Even if you’re confident in your writing ability, the 300-word limit for the two required essays gives you only a small window to make a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

To ensure you put your best foot forward in your Haas essays, you need to make sure you thoroughly prepare before you start writing, be brief and to the point, and make sure to revise your essay so it aligns with the culture and values of Haas. It’s best to start preparing for your Haas essays as early as you can. 

Do Your Research 

Before you start writing your responses for the Haas essays, you have to do your research. Take the time to learn all that you can about Berkeley Haas; learn about the MBA program that you’ll apply for, the various opportunities that they have available, their reputation, culture, and expectations. 

In this article, we have alluded to the importance of a few of the institution’s values , especially when reviewing Haas essays, such as the defining principles of leadership, community, and collaboration.

Understanding all that you can about Haas will help you determine the best experiences and examples to draw on to show that you would make a great addition to the Haas MBA program. 

Reflect on Your Experiences, Accomplishments, and Background

The next step in writing your responses to the Haas essays is to brainstorm and identify key points, examples, and experiences that you can use. This is where all of the research that you’ve done can come in handy: think about how you want to represent yourself in your answers and which experiences of yours align with the expectations and core values of Berkeley Haas. 

Whatever experiences you choose to highlight in your Haas essays, make sure that you tell the story of who you are. When doing this, be as specific as you can and opt to ‘show not tell’ wherever possible.

Stay away from broad generalizations or dramatic embellishments; focus on using specific, real-life details as proof of your initiative, intelligence, and bold leadership. 

Don’t Overthink Your Responses

While you want to make sure you spend time preparing for your essay and doing research, you don’t want to overthink the Haas essays. Though they may be thought-provoking, the questions are not designed to trick you—there is no hidden meaning or one “right” answer. 

The best way to respond to the essays is with honesty and authenticity; be your true and genuine self. Don’t worry about answering the questions in a way that you think the admissions committee would like best.

Remind yourself that the committee wants to learn more about who you are, your experiences, your background and most importantly, your opinion. 

As Berkley Haas’ four defining leadership principles suggest, you must be bold enough to be yourself within these responses—this means not being afraid to show personality and vulnerability. Once you’ve written your response, make sure to review what you’ve written or even show it to a close friend or family member to ensure it truly reflects who you are

Two Examples of Haas Essays

Now that we discussed what to expect when writing your Haas essays, let’s look at a few sample questions and potential responses.

Sample Question 1 with Response

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why?

Sample Introduction:

Having lived all my life with people culturally different from me, I have come to value the fellowship of humans over all other fellowships. Over time, I have realized that nothing excites and invigorates me more than the idea of connecting with diverse people, understanding their backgrounds, relating to their challenges, and working out creative ways to develop win-win solutions.

Sample Body Paragraph:

As an undergraduate student, my knack for developing interpersonal relationships landed me a role as the North-East campaign head for the progressive [Name] student party. Traditionally, the party had tried to appeal to [Country] students in the US by organizing town halls one month before the elections. Leading a team of seventeen volunteers, I instead decided to organize a listening tour across five states on the East Coast. I soon realized that the party was not able to empathize with its incoming electorate. After 100+ one-on-one interviews with voters with diverse backgrounds, I was able to draft coherent messaging that led to the progressive party winning 95% of the votes.

Sample Conclusion:

Over the last five years, my passion for connecting with diverse people has evolved into a responsibility, fueled by a belief that inclusiveness is the only way forward for society. Several experiences have reinforced this belief – right from organizing monthly social justice talks as a volunteer project leader for [Name], an NGO in [Country] to leading extremely sensitive privatization conversations with 40+ governmental agencies as a [Name] consultant drafting a privatization strategy for the State of [Country].

Today, I am more excited than ever to connect with peers at UC Berkeley, develop meaningful relationships, and fulfill my promise of promoting inclusive growth in organizations, communities, and societies writ large.

Sample Question 2 with Response

Please elaborate on any of your above responses. Alternatively, you may use this opportunity to expand on other hardships or unusual life circumstances that may help us understand the context of your opportunities, achievements, and impact.

Sample Introduction:

I am extremely passionate about building genuine connections with diverse people. It is an interest that has played a role in shaping my professional ambition of helping build a new-age, inclusive, and privatization-driven [Country] economy. Although it might seem a bit odd, I believe events before my birth played a major role in shaping this facet of my personality.

Sample Body Paragraph:

Nearly two years before my birth, [Country] invaded my motherland, [Country]. My family narrowly survived the intense bombing and shelling. However, this experience had a deep impact on them. They were both highly educated, well-travelled, and appreciative of different opinions. Yet, here they were, seeing first-hand the [Country] being torn apart by the rise of ultra-conservatism and backward thinking. It was at that moment they decided that the children they raise would be taught acceptance, multiculturalism, and empathy. Eventually, their focus on helping me and my siblings value these traits became a defining facet of my childhood.

Sample Conclusion:

I was fortunate to be born to parents who saw hope even when people around them were seeing despair and focused on promoting openness and inclusion at a time when [Country] was getting increasingly more conservative. As I have come to appreciate my good fortune, I have become increasingly passionate about playing my part in spreading acceptance and inclusion and building a world that I would be proud to leave for future generations.


1. When are the application deadlines? 

Haas offers three application deadlines: Round 1 on Sept. 24 (with a decision by Dec. 17), Round 2 on Jan. 14 (with a decision by Mar. 25), and Round 3 on Apr. 5 (with a decision by May 13). You should apply as soon as you can, ideally in Round 1 or Round 2.

However, if you feel like you need more time to strengthen your application, to retake the GMAT for a better score, or to improve your MBA profile,feel free to do so. 

2. What is Haas’ minimum requirement for the GMAT or GRE?

While there is no minimum GMAT or GRE score, the Haas class profile shows that the average GMAT score is 727, while the average GRE Verbal and Quant scores are 161. The admissions committee will particularly look at your performance in the quantitative section, as it speaks to your quantitative proficiency.

3. How many people apply to the full-time MBA program every year?

Typically, the average number of applicants is around 3,700 each year. This number has been as low as 2,800 and as high as 4,500 in recent years. Out of those thousands of applicants, only 331 got admitted to the most recent class of Haas’ MBA program. 

4. How important are the Haas essays in the application process?

There isn’t one aspect of the application process that is more important than the other; the admissions committee reviews applications holistically. However, determining candidates’ fit within Haas’ culture and how candidates align with the school’s four defining principles are the most important elements that the admissions committee looks for.

5. How can I learn more about Haas?

If you want to learn more about Haas, consider going through the Berkeley MBA Blog and the Berkeley Haas Newsroom. You can also attend upcoming admissions events, watch webinars that have been recorded, or even connect with other students. You should also look into the different part-time, full-time, and executive MBA programs Haas offers.

6. What MBA formats does Berkeley Haas offer?

Depending on your availability, Haas offers three different MBA programs: a traditional, full-time MBA program, a 2.5—3 year Evening & Weekend MBA, and a 22 month MBA for Executives


While it can be an intimidating part of your MBA application, your Haas essays are a great way to show the admissions committee who you are and what you have to offer. Your responses to these essay questions will help you illustrate how you align with the values and culture of Berkeley Haas. 

Before writing your Haas essays, remember to always do your research and spend some time reflecting and planning your response. If you keep these tips in mind as you’re writing your essays, as well as the four defining leadership principles, you’ll be that much closer to submitting a strong application. 

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At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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